An American Melodrama

(by Chester, Hodgson & Page) Definitive account of the 1968 Presidential campaign, written by three accomplished British journalists, manages to avoid the faux pomp of much American political writing; brilliantly covers the most critical election since 1932 with telling vignettes of key players, Democratic, Republican and independent. Pithy chapters on RFK‘s death in Los Angeles and Nixon working southern delegates at the Miami Hilton are classic. At page 355, this passage appears, describing the aftermath of RFK’s wounding in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles: “It was very claustrophobic , like an alleyway deep in a…

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Alexander Hamilton

(by Ron Chernow) Definitive biography deals comprehensively with the life and work of the highly contentious Treasurer of the early republic.  (It largely bears out Gore Vidal’s fictional portrait of him in Burr). Hamilton was fundamentally a pessimist in an optimist’s land, who wrote that its inhabitants were fit for chains, hoping only for gold ones. [Update: In Vidal’s novel Burr, Hamilton, a powerful figure in the highly-charged early political days of the American Republic, is referred to as “that Creole bastard.”  The record is redressed, better late than never, by Chernow’s fine work and a new musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in…

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Vale Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam

Vale Edward Gough Whitlam (11 June 1916 – 21 October 2014) After the Australian Labor Party failed to win the cliffhanger federal election of 1961, in which it won no seats in Victoria, the leader, Arthur Calwell, failed to quell the left’s hatred of aid to non-government schools that lost it a stack of votes among working class Catholics. Eventually, on 8 February 1967, having not held the reins of power for the better part of a generation, federal caucus turned to Whitlam, who stared down the Victorian State Conference in June of that year (saying of their electoral death…

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Argo

A worried President Carter.

(dir. Ben Affleck) (2012) Competent, over-praised and ultimately futile defence of the Carter administration.

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